What small business can learn from Florida tourism's disaster response

by Becky McCray on June 15, 2010

As tourism-based small businesses all along the Gulf of Mexico are feeling the effects of reduced visitor numbers, a few tourism groups are doing some innovative things to reach and reassure potential travelers.

BP has given money to several gulf states to promote tourism. While some traditional ad buys are going on, I’m more interested in the live reports and immediate information being aggregated for visitors.

The Visit Florida tourism organization is aggregating webcams, photos and live Twitter reports from real people on a page called Florida Live. Video reports and a blog add to the picture.

The significance is the real person, real time nature of the information. There is a higher trust factor on this kind of data. Purchasing ads is the traditional thing to do, but how many people really believe an ad that says, in essence, “Remain calm; all is well.”

Which would you be more likely to believe, a slick produced tv ad from the state tourism agency, or a live webcam right on the beach you are planning to visit? Do you believe the official spokesperson, or the photos a visitor just posted?

So if you were the state, regional or local tourism organization, which way would you spend your focus: buying and producing ads, or pulling together and sharing real time information about your destination?

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